By Melissa Fossum
By Lauren Wise
By New Times
By Amanda Savage
By Jason P. Woodbury
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5. Tom Waits, Storytellers (Ring Finger). Being duty-bound during last year's SXSW festival in Austin, I had to forgo the opportunity to catch Tom Waits' much-heralded "comeback" show at the Paramount Theater. I also felt similarly gypped when I missed his appearance a few months back on VH1's Storytellers program. But not to fret; with the advancements in Internet commerce, I was able to get an, er, "import" CD version of the show not long after its initial broadcast. The 47-minute disc features performances of some of Waits' biggest hits ("Ol '55," "Jersey Girl"), material from his latest album, Mule Variations, as well as his inimitable tales and jokes.
6. (tie) Clash, Yellow Riot (Genuine Pig) and Into the '80s (Kiss the Stone). I got caught up in a late-year buying frenzy of live Clash product after getting a copy Sony's amazing official concert comp, Live: From Here to Eternity. The first disc is culled from the group's 1982 Japanese tour (and features blistering renditions of "Police on My Back" and "Safe European Home") while the second is an equally exceptional set recorded at the Lochen Festival in Holland earlier the same year.
8. Matthew Sweet, 100% Pure Sweet (Ride the Tiger). A rare bootleg from one of the '90s' most devout practitioners of old-school power pop, featuring 19 tracks from the 1994-1995 100% Fun period. The songs range from B-sides and concert cuts to several live-in-the-studio efforts. Another relative bargain at only $22.50.
9. The Jam, All Conned Mods (Tendolar). A nice companion piece to 1997's five-disc, 117-song Polydor box, Direction, Reaction, Creation. Taking Jam completism to ridiculous levels, the reason I bought this disc was for the five studio alternates not found on the boxed set. As a bonus, you get 18 live cuts, two of which were recorded on Tom Snyder's Tomorrow show in 1980 -- and which also include the frosty haired one's hilarious intro of the group.
10. Sloan, Recorded Live at a Sloan Party (Enclave). At $4, this buy was proof that not all eBay purchases have to pound the pocketbook. Originally released on the first American pressing of Sloan's 1996 release, One Chord to Another, the record is modeled after the Beach Boys' famed live-in-the-studio Party album. The Canadian alterna-rockers run through a set that includes some of their better-known tracks as well as cover of the Modern Lovers "Dignified and Old" and the Mann/Weil chestnut "Glitter and Gold." The real highlight of the disc is a mind-altering Canned Heat/Stereolab medley.
Top 10 Scores of '99 at the Trade Counter
Time was the year-end accolades would get compiled in early January and comprised only those items that surfaced in the 12 calendar months prior. No more. Nowadays it seems like record companies "work" their product in order to stretch it across as many awards bashes as possible regardless of the fact that the trophy-giving ceremony takes place two years after the awardee actually released his or her celebrated brain-throb. (Raise your hand if you're sick of Lauryn Hill.)
So at the risk of appearing flip -- I actually take rock 'n' roll quite seriously, it's just that the fascinating clash between low and high art gets mooted when commerce enters into the equation -- I'd like to nominate a few artifacts that may or may not have anything to do with 1999 in a kind of "scavenger's top 10" of the year. I am gainfully employed, you see, by a local music retailer, and for upward of 32 hours a week I can be found manning our store's trade-in counter, patiently explaining to all the Bill Blakes of the world exactly why their battered CD copies of Ratt's Out of the Cellar will only net them $2.50 cash/$4 trade credit no matter how much the band rocks, dude!, while anything by John Zorn, rockingness factor notwithstanding, is worth twice that or more. The reward for my patience? First dibs on what comes across the trade counter. And I scored pretty nicely this year, thank you very much.
1. Captain Beefheart, Grow Fins (Revenent). This got traded in the week it was issued. Some college student had bought it after reading Magnet and The Wire wanting to find out what all this noise about the guy critics were calling the "missing link between the blues, hip-hop and indie rock" was about. Hey, pal, I told him, don't believe everything you read, especially not those hipper-than-thou rags; critics get their swag for free, and publicists do call in favors. But it's just disjointed noise, complained the kid, and in the live CD-ROM footage on disc 4 Beefheart's Magic Band looks like a freak show. This coming from someone in a Slipknot tee, I thought to myself, as I handed him his trade slip. At home later that night I logged on to eBay to see if my copy of the promo-only, one-disc Beef sampler from the box was worth anything. Don't need it now anyway.
2. Grateful Dead, So Many Roads boxed set sampler (Arista). Speaking of eBay . . . ever wonder why you don't see as much cool stuff at record swap meets or in the pages of Goldmine anymore? It's because, thanks to the goddamn auction mentality that eBay is fostering in our culture, every dork with a Beatles picture sleeve now thinks he's a budding Sotheby's barker. Record store personnel with Internet access have quietly and quickly turned opportunist as a result. What this translates into for you, Joe Consumer, is that the likelihood of your coming across the Grateful Dead promo-only, 10-song sampler from the band's recent five-CD box is pretty nil. Y'see, it contains a live song, "Passenger," originally slated for the box but yanked at the last minute. As such, the sampler, which was sent out to stores for in-house play, became an instant collectible and wound up on eBay. Me, I'm a collector, not an entrepreneur, and I additionally like the Grateful Dead (see next entry); the box is on my Christmas list if anyone needs gift ideas. So not only was I thrilled to hear the tunes, I kept it out of the hands of a fellow employee -- and an eBay veteran -- who is definitely not a Dead fan and who trolls our bins with the studiousness of a seasoned Barbie doll broker. Whatever happened to working in a record store simply because you like being around music?